Monday, September 17, 2007

Alcatraz Island

In 1859, Alcatraz Island or The Rock as it is still affectionately known by some people began life as a military fortress and prison. From 1934-1963, it was a federal penitentiary and in 1969-1971 the site was occupied by Native American Indians who staged a protest. Today, Alcatraz Island is a State Park that includes historic gardens, bird colonies and of course an excellent tour of the prison.

It is not hard to imagine what the prisoners must have felt as they crossed from the mainland to Alcatraz Island. They knew that once on the island, escape was almost impossible because of the frigid water and the tides and currents in the San Francisco Bay. Nearing their destination, they would have seen the armed guards waiting on the dock, the imposing cell block atop the rock, and armed guards watching from the towers. Only the worse kinds of men were brought to Alcatraz. Men such as Al Capone “Scarface”, Robert Stroud “Birdman of Alcatraz” and George “Machine Gun” Kelley were just a few of the notorious inmates. The men had to abide by 53 strict rules of conduct while incarcerated, but I found rule #5 particularly interesting. "You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.”

I highly recommend the ferry trip to Alcatraz Island, the tour around the prison grounds, the film show and a visit to the museum. Discount tickets can be purchased to include a variety of activities and events including the whole San Francisco Bay area, trolley cars, etc. I chose an individual ticket but I think I could have saved money by purchasing ahead of time and getting multiple activities. My ferry ticket and tour of the prison was just under $35.00 but once again, it was well worth the money.